HANOI - Eight North Koreans sought political asylum Thursday at the Danish embassy in Hanoi, a Vietnamese diplomatic source said, marking the latest in a series of similar incidents.
The six women and two men entered the Danish compound at about 10:00 am (0300 GMT), the source said, adding they were accompanied by a South Korean national.
"These people came to Vietnam from China with tourist visas through the border at Lang Son province," said the source. The Danish ambassador declined to reveal the number of people involved or to clarify whether they were seeking asylum.
"I can confirm that some persons who claim they are North Koreans are at the embassy," ambassador Peter Lysholt Hansen told AFP. Five guards who enforced strict security at the embassy gates Thursday afternoon refused to let AFP enter.
A man who appeared to be Korean arrived for a meeting and spent about 30 minutes inside the compound before rushing out to a taxi and refusing to answer any questions.
Nobody answered the phone at the North Korean embassy and Vietnamese authorities did not respond to queries about the incident.
This is the second time in about two years that North Koreans have sought refuge with the Danes in Hanoi.
In July 2007 four nationals from the Stalinist country crawled over the embassy gate. They were reportedly later allowed into South Korea.
Similar incidents have occurred at other embassies in Hanoi. In August 2007 five North Koreans jumped the fence at the Indonesian mission saying they "want to go to a free country."
In 2004 and 2005, North Korean refugees sought asylum at the French, Thai and Swedish embassies in Hanoi.
South Korea has taken in thousands of people who have fled impoverished and isolated North Korea on an "underground railroad" of illegal border crossing and safe houses that usually leads via China to Mongolia or Southeast Asia.
Because China repatriates North Koreans to their homeland, where they face possible execution, refugees often attempt to reach foreign embassies in third countries, making perilous journeys of thousands of kilometres (miles).
Some travel on to Southeast Asian countries in the hope of eventual resettlement in South Korea. More than 14,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the vast majority of them in recent years.
Communist Vietnam and Stalinist North Korea are political allies.